An Ode to Cranky & Cantankerous

by Carol Hess on February 4, 2013

Cranky.  Cantankerous.  Don’t you just love those words?  I like the sound of crotchety too.

I come from a long line of women who tend to get cranky and cantankerous as they age.  I’m delighted to announce I’m there.  Just call me Crankypants Carol.  (Thank you, Sandi Amorim for crankypants.)

Actually, I suspect my female relatives and I have always been a bit cranky and cantankerous by nature.  When we amass a sufficient number of years on the planet, we simply give ourselves permission to let that nature fully emerge.  I suppose we decide the truth is easier to maintain than the façade.

My Cranky Truth

So here’s my truth in all its cranky glory.

I’m tired of all this affirmation pushing, positive thinking proselytizing, Law of Attraction oversimplifying that’s being pushed down our collective throats.  It has turned us into a bunch of self-righteous, self-conscious, sweetness-and-light spouting, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-our-mouths posturing good little girls.

Good grief!  I’ve spent my whole life trying to recover from the Good Little Girl Syndrome!  Now, just as I have one foot pulled out of that authenticity-sucking, identity-sapping quicksand, I’m being pushed into the mud of political and spiritual correctness so that I can be fashioned into Smile Sweetly for the Spiritual Camera Carol.

No, thank you.  I’d rather be Stick Out Her Tongue at the Camera Crankypants Carol.  It comes much more naturally.


As for affirmations, I’m not a fan of them.  Never have been.  They push back against, resist the negative beliefs I hold — supposedly so I will start embracing the positive and rejecting the negative.  But what I resist persists.  In fact, the more I resist something, the stronger it becomes.  (Have you ever tried to resist scratching an itch?)  So I’m damned if I’m going to run around uttering affirmations that make my negative beliefs that much more persistent and powerful.  That makes no sense to me.

Instead, I’m going to examine those negative beliefs.  I’m going to follow their winding, curving, snaking, sneaky, detouring, duplicitous, doubling back tracks until I can trace those beliefs right back to their source.  Then I’m going to shine the light of truth on them and pull those suckers out, roots and all.

Let’s face it.  Planting a bunch of sweet-smelling daisy affirmations in among the rank-smelling negative dandelions of my mental garden isn’t going to make the dandelions go away.  They’re just going to keep coming up over and over until I dig them up and expose them to the air of awareness.  Then the healing can begin.  I can’t heal what I don’t acknowledge.

Positive Thinking

The same goes for trying to drown out my stinking thinking by screaming my positive thoughts louder and more often.  I find it far more effective to voice my negative thoughts and fears and worries – to talk them out and scribble them down.  Instead of pushing them aside or drumming them out, I bring them center stage.  And then I go to work on them.  I uncover them, uncloak them, entertain them, examine them, dismantle them, demystify them.  By the time I’ve done all that, they have lost their emotional charge and therefore their power.

The current proselytizing about the wonders of positive thinking can be downright unhealthy.  Several years ago, I was at home, recovering from major surgery.  As I stood in the kitchen talking to my young neighbor who had come over to take out my trash for me, I felt something warm and wet running down my leg.  I looked down and saw pools of dark red blood splashing onto the white kitchen floor.  The blood was gushing from the end of the long surgical incision at my hip.

As I grabbed towel after kitchen towel to try to stop the blood from pouring out of me, I was sure I was about to die.  I didn’t know that I was losing old blood that had collected at the site of the operation and not new blood I needed to live.  However, that quickly became apparent when I didn’t lose consciousness or even feel light-headed from losing all that blood.

For the next couple of weeks, the scene of my red blood pooling on the white kitchen floor played over and over in my mind.  When I mentioned it to the visiting nurse, she responded, “Carol, stop thinking about it.  You’re slowing down your healing.  Think only positive thoughts.”

I tried.  I really did.  Trust me.  I really didn’t want to keep reliving a time when I thought I was about to die.  But there seemed to be nothing I could do about it.  The scene kept flashing up on the screen of my mind over and over and over, like some crazy movie reel on an endless loop.

So I told my former therapist about it.  And she told me not to listen to the visiting nurse, that the psyche heals itself from trauma by replaying the traumatic incident over and over until it loses its emotional charge.  The real harm comes when we try to suppress the replaying and therefore suppress the natural process the psyche uses to heal itself.  Lori went on to say I would feel less and less distress each time I relived the trauma, and eventually my bloody kitchen floor movie would stop.  She was exactly right.

Then there came a time when I deliberately ran my movie one more time.  A nurse was trying to draw blood from me with little success.  So I visualized the kitchen floor scene and, sure enough, my blood began to flow.  When all the tubes were nicely filled, I turned the movie off, and my blood stopped flowing.  Now that’s the power of negative thinking!

Law of Attraction

As for the ever popular Law of Attraction, I don’t begin to understand its complex nature and the ramifications for those of us living under it.  But I do take exception to those who have oversimplified it and diminished it by turning it into some kind of spiritual wishing well.  If it’s really that simple, then why aren’t we all happy as clams and leading perfect lives?

Trust me, we aren’t – no matter how much we may think it, say it, write it, affirm it . . . . . or pretend it.  And that’s okay.  We’re not supposed to be happy as clams all the time.  Our goal on this planet isn’t to live perfect lives.  It’s to learn.  We’re all here to learn, and none of us has mastered all the lessons.  We all struggle from time to time.  And guess what?  That means that we all get crotchety from time to time.

So why don’t we just tell that truth to ourselves and each other?  Why don’t we just give ourselves and each other permission to be cranky, cantankerous, and real?

I’ll go first.  Hi, my name is Carol, and I’m having a crankypants day.

Your turn.


by Carol Hess


Categories Personal Empowerment, The Art of Star Polishing, The Mind Game, Weighing In (Rants & Raves)

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Sarah | Holistic Hot Sauce February 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I’m actually feeling pretty good this morning! But I do get the frustration with the oversimplification of the focusing on the positive. There’s a real problem with shutting down one’s true feelings. Emotions are valuable and they give us valuable information – even when the emotion is sadness, grief or anger. It’s important to BE with those feelings when they arise, because as you say that’s the only way they can wash through.
That said, I do believe there’s a balance and we do ourselves a disservice if we just give into a wallowing in the ‘negative’ thoughts and emotions. After I’ve given the feeling it’s time I enjoy knowing that I can look for what I DO like, what IS going right, and what is right in front of me that I can love and appreciate about my life. And that feels pretty good too.
It’s all about balance I guess!
Great story and insights here Carol. Hope that crankypants day is lightening up!


avatar Carol Hess February 4, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Oh, no! You said the “B” word, Sarah — balance. Almost as foreign a concept to me as the “M” word — moderation. :) Funny, when I was very closed down (and using every trick in the book to stay that way), I led a very balanced and moderate life, at least when it came to my emotions. Now, not so much. I think the important thing to strive for is authenticity — which means sometimes we’re going to have our crankypants days, and sometimes we’re going to have our cartwheel days. This day remains a crankypants one for me, but I’m okay with that. Cartwheels are always right around the corner.


avatar Sandi Amorim February 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Synchronicity! I’m having a crankypants day too, mostly because my bones are achy, but it kind of dominoes from there.

Love your points Carol. I’m all for positive thinking when you are feeling positive, otherwise it’s like icing on a mudpie…take a bite and it’s still mud!


avatar Carol Hess February 4, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Yep, there is nothing like physical pain to lead one directly to the door of a crankypants day. Come to think of it, that might be part of what’s going on for me too. My chiropractor had a baby (how rude of her to inconvenience me!), so I’m hurting because I missed my usual tune-up. Mudpie — are you sure you weren’t thinking of some other kind of pie, Sandi? LOL


avatar Ellen February 4, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I have learned that the only way through my feelings is to feel them. REALLY feel them. Wallow in them if I need to like a pig in a mud puddle. I think the big difference for me is recognizing when I’m creating stories about future fears VS processing things that have *actually* happened.

If I’m meditating on shit that hasn’t actually happened, then that’s got to stop. Borrowing trouble never helped anyone, and I think that’s *really* what the law of attraction is all about. Stop believing your bullshit stories.

On the other hand, some stuff makes me furious, sad, jealous or a whole range of similar emotions. They are real feelings, and to deny them is a lie. One of the best gifts my mother ever gave me was helping me understand that expressing my feelings was healthy–it gets it out of your body instead of festering within like an infection. It helps me move through the situation more mindfully and to release the emotions and energy more quickly.

Not that you need any other support for your case, I read an article recently that said women who express their anger live longer. If that’s the case, I’m gonna live forever. :)


avatar Carol Hess February 4, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Ellen, I’ve got a post-it at my desk that reads, “The only way out is through.” I think it applies as much to feelings as anything else. I’m a big fan of wallowing too, and I never worry about doing it too long. I can always count on someone to point out when it’s time to stop. I’m lucky that way. Very interesting that women who express their anger live longer. I know repressed anger plays a role in all sorts of diseases. Any energy that gets stuck in the body is not good. Your Mom was right — expressing feelings is healthy on all levels.


avatar Staci Boden February 4, 2013 at 9:57 pm

WOO HOO, I LOVE YOU and YOUR CRANKYPANTS!!!! Right on, I’m with you all the way, and thank you for saying it so well!


avatar Carol Hess February 4, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Maybe we should start a Crankypants Club, Staci! My guess is the first meeting would end abruptly when everyone dissolved in gales of laughter as we witnessed each other’s crankipantsness. :)


avatar Lynn Hess February 6, 2013 at 8:44 am

I’ll admit that for years I fell prey to too much sweetness-and-light spouting! (Some would say I still do.) It wasn’t out of fear of the Law of Attraction — I have always sensed on some level that is way too simplistic.

Here’s what I think it was: After realizing I had the power to question my negative stories, and unraveling so many of them, I was SO thrilled to FINALLY feel good — to be an actual OPTIMIST! — that I greedily didn’t want to give up that good feeling, ever. So I subtly and subconsciously pushed down any feeling that came that didn’t make me feel good.

But, as you point out so well, that only works for so long — those suckers gotta come out, one way or the other! I like to think I’ve learned to feel them, acknowledge them, and let them move through me. It’s still not always easy (and I still much prefer the “feel good”!) — but those “bad” and “cranky” feelings are just as much a part of me as the “good” ones — and how can I fully love myself if I don’t love them, too?

Loved this article, Carol! Thanks!


avatar Carol Hess February 6, 2013 at 9:11 am

I love the road you took, Lynn, to find the balance (there’s that B word!) between the so-called negative and positive feelings. And you make an excellent point — self-love is loving all of ourselves, cranky feelings included. I think the quicker we acknowledge and accept them, the quicker they move on through.


avatar Polly Silva February 6, 2013 at 10:15 am


I think you make some great points here, and I agree with many of them. However, I found myself experiencing a different “c” word throughout the whole piece: Cringing.

Cranky, cantankerous, crotchety – women? Wow!

I thought we’d come a lot farther than that in our understandings of human nature, and in our permissions for women to become more than Labels. Do I want to give up a “good little girl” label to instead have permission to be a “crotchety women”?

I thought we’d come a lot farther in our understandings of human nature, that we could see emotions as experiences of both genders. That we could give both genders permission to experience and express emotions. Women are not the other “b” word, while men are assertive (as I heard in my early days at the work place). Women are not by nature or nurture “overly emotional.”

Men and women experience emotions, have good days and bad days, and need to decide how to balance positive thinking (or the Law of Attraction, or whatever we want to call it) with negative feelings and experiences, stresses and failures.

It’s the ability for us all to come to terms with this in our own, label-free fashion that will lead to our internal peace and success.


avatar Carol Hess February 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm

You make an excellent point, Polly. Cranky, cantankerous, crotchety aren’t words or labels that belong only to women. They belong to both men and women. Since the majority of my readers are women, I talk about women. If I left the impression that I was labeling any gender specifically one adjective or another, then I apologize. That was absolutley not my intent. Thank you for helping me put the record straight. Less labels and more room for individual self-expression. Yes!


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